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Challenging Conversations: Increasing Engagement Across Political and Cultural Lines

Garry Knight; Flickr

As we head into Thanksgiving, difficult topics are bound to come up around the dinner table.  We hear about a new effort in Nashua called 1000 Conversations, which is aimed at getting people to talk outside of their own cultural groups.  Those involved say this kind of dialogue has wide-ranging benefits.


  • Michele Holt-Shannon - Co-founder and co-director of New Hampshire Listens, a civic engagement initiative at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. 
  • Michael Reinke - Executive Director of The Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter, and one of the founders of the 1000 Conversations project. 
  • Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett - Rabbi for Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, and one of the founders of the 1000 Conversations project. 

1000 Conversations

Reinke, Spira-Savett and Priest Alanna van Antwerpen, of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua, created 1000 Conversations to "increase the number of people in America who have spoken to and listened to someone with a different political outlook on the issues in our society." Their goal is to reach 1000 conversations by the New Year. 

They help facilitate conversations and encourage participants to set up their own discussions, and log them. You can read more about the complete project here.  

New Hampshire Listens

NH Listens works with local communities and statewide organizations to help faciliate difficult conversations in an effective way. They oversee and assist with Local Listens groups across the state. 

NH Listens was recently received an American Civic Collaboration Award (Civvy) for its work. You can read more about NH Listens here

Tools For Having Meaningful Conversations

Living Room Conversations Discussion Guide for the Holidays offers a multi-part template for facilitating a talk with family and friends. 

Setting the Table for Civility from the National Institute for Civil Discourse has a variety of guides and activities for different groups, including on campus and in faith-based communities. 

AskBigQuestions.orghelps train college students to lead effective conversations. 

"Take the 'Other' to Lunch," a TED Talk by Elizabeth Lesser. 

"Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation," a TED Talk by Celeste Headlee. 

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